Waivers. The essential limbo for players to clear before being sent down to the minor league (within 30 days or 10 games after clearing). A short window where 29 other teams can pick up the player with little cost. It's not where you will find the next great player. It can be where you find someone to solidify the depth of the lineup, potentially filling roles. It's not a guarantee. You may find someone like Ryan Carter, who's been a mainstay of the fourth line since 2012 and is expecting a new contract, and someone like Alexander Urbom, who couldn't stick on a weak Washington blueline, couldn't rise up the ranks in NJ, and is heading back to Europe. Nevertheless, the waiver wire remains. And it can be outrageous should someone is lost because of it.
Not every player has to go through waivers. There are those who are waiver exempt. They can be demoted at will. That certainly plays a role in terms of who stays on the main roster and who does not. It allows management to have flexibility in terms of who they keep on the 23-man roster. It's good to know who has it and who does not. Waiver exemption is determined by three factors according to the 2013 CBA (link via NHLPA): how old the player signed their first NHL contract (a.k.a. Standard Player's Contract or SPC), how long they have been signed, and how many games they have played. The relevant section is Article 13; Article 13.4 has this very helpful chart to determine exemption.
|Age||Years from Signing NHL Deal||NHL GP (RS + PO)||Years from Signing NHL Deal||NHL GP (RS + PO)|
In general, once a player signs their first SPC, their waiver exemption status starts running down. Playing games or time while signed will reduce it. For example, a 22-year old forward signs at that age right out of college. Even if he doesn't play a single minute in the NHL, he loses his exemption in three seasons. Likewise, if the 22-year old forward signs and plays about 75% of a regular season (61 games), then he loses his exemption in that season. Article 13 does have an exception for 18 and 19 year old players. If they play in at least 11 games in those seasons, then that counts as a season played (as it would for any ELC sliding rule) and their exemption status goes down: three years for a skater, four for a goalie.
As with last summer, I decided to go through the Devils' reserve list to determine which Devils in the organization have this exemption. Again, I used Capgeek's Waiver Calculator to confirm status. If they are no longer exempt, then that's that. If they are exempt, I listed how long in years and games played the player has before they lost it. I also didn't bother looking up veterans as they would obviously be non-exempt. Besides, only players on the fringe or deep in the roster would ever be considered for demotion to Albany. Unlike last summer, I split it up by position and listed the player's age at their first SPC. This should make it easier to refer back to the Article 13.4 chart to confirm status. Lastly, I assumed all pending restricted free agents will be signed with the exceptions of Urbom, Tedenby, and Pesonen as they are bound to play in Europe next season.
Let's begin with the defensemen.
|Defensemen||SPC Age||NHL GP||Yrs Signed||Waiver Exempt?|
|Merrill||21||52||1||YES (2 yrs / 28 GP)|
|McPherson||26||0||0||YES (1 yr)|
|Helgeson||23||0||1||YES (2 yrs / 60 GP)|
|Hrabarenka||21||0||1||YES (2 yrs / 80 GP)|
|Scarlett||19||0||2||YES (2 yrs / 160 GP)|
|Severson||18||0||2||YES (3 yrs / 160 GP)|
Jon Merrill has something Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas do not: exemption. Larsson's ELC slide years were burned in his first season, so his three seasons just finished. Gelinas was signed while he was still in juniors; he's been in the organization longer than the other two young defensemen. So both are no longer waiver-exempt. Merrill jumped right into pro hockey and got his shot at the big time. He didn't play all season; therefore, he still is exempt. It won't last long, though. The moment he steps on the ice for his 29th appearance with the team in 2014-15, he loses it. So if the Devils aren't sure about Merrill early in the season, then they could move him down to Albany for a little bit. I doubt that it happens given how he was used last season. In any case, the lack of exemption status for Larsson and Gelinas means it's safe to expect they'll start in New Jersey in 2014-15. Merrill will likely be there too since he's good enough.
Among the other defensemen in the system, nearly everyone is safe. Brandon Burlon would have to clear waivers. Given that he's done nothing to show that he's a NHL player in several seasons, I think he would clear without issue. Corbin McPherson just signed his first NHL contract, but given his advanced age, his exemption status will go away in 2015-16 at the latest. The others are young enough that it won't be a concern until two seasons. By then, it'll be clearer whether they are players with a future or not. Lastly, expect Peter Harrold to stay in New Jersey. He's a veteran defender with experience that doesn't mind not being active for a while before playing. He would likely be picked up by someone on waivers were he to be sent down. So anyone whining about his position on the roster will just have to like it or lump it for another season.
Onward to forwards, the following chart is another reason to think there's got to be a forward moved at some point:
|Forwards||SPC Age||NHL GP||Yrs Signed||Waiver Exempt?|
|Boucher||20||23||1||YES (2 yrs / 137 GP)|
|Matteau||18||17||2||YES (1 yr / 130 GP)|
|Wohlberg||22||0||2||YES (1 yr / 60 GP)|
|Black||21||0||0||YES (3 yrs / 80 GP)|
|Thomson||21||0||0||YES (3 yrs / 80 GP)|
|Johnson||20||0||0||YES (3 yrs / 160 GP)|
The two-thirds of the CBGB line the Devils retained would have to go through waivers if demoted. It's remarkable that Steve Bernier has played so much already. But he and Stephen Gionta wouldn't be so safe if ever moved down to Albany. I don't think either would happen. However, most of the forwards behind them that make up the Devils' depth are also not waiver-exempt. Jacob Josefson, who will be signed to a new deal, has been under some contract for four seasons. He's no longer exempt. If Ryan Carter does return, the Devils would have 14 signed forwards and all of them would have to go through waivers if sent down. It would be a tight fit on the roster to keep all 14. I don't think any of those four would clear without someone taking a look at them; especially Josefson since he's still a young player. To me, I think this justifies any further thinking that someone gets moved.
Some of the depth beyond those players are also no longer exempt. Tim Sestito lost it years ago. Mike Sislo, Joe Whitney, Scott Timmins, and Darcy Zajac just lost it. Given that none of those players have shown much beyond playing in the AHL, then I don't think they would be picked up through waivers. If we see them, then it'll likely be due to injuries. I believe that situation provides an exemption for waivers via an emergency call-up. Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau are still exempt and will likely remain in Albany for another season unless a spot is created. This isn't a big deal now. But the Devils should be looking closely at Matteau's development. He'll lose his exemption next season, so unless they want to risk him, then they'll want to see if he can earn a spot for 2015-16. The recently signed young forwards - Ben Johnson, Ben Thomson, and Graham Black - will be Albany bound for now. They are not at risk of losing status at all.
Goaltenders have different criteria for waiver exemptions. Among the five signed goalies in the system, three have it for now:
|Goalies||SPC Age||NHL GP||Yrs Signed||Waiver Exempt?|
|Kinkaid||22||1||3||YES (1 yr / 53 GP)|
|Wedgewood||20||0||2||YES (2 yrs / 72 GP)|
|Clermont||20||0||3||YES (1 yr / 72 GP)|
Scott Clemmensen did sign a two-way deal but that means nothing to waivers. Should Keith Kinkaid win the #2 job in New Jersey, then Clemmensen would be subject to waivers. In theory, this shouldn't be a problem. Clemmensen hasn't had good numbers, he'll be 37 by the time training camp comes around, and many teams are already set at goaltender. However, a shrewd team could snag him just to have that "veteran presence" and/or "mess with the Devils." I don't think teams are that clever, though. Anyway, should Kinkaid not impress in camp, then he could go down to Albany for another year. But it may be now or never as he'll lose his exemption and he'll be 27 next season. The team may want to move on from that. Deeper into the system, Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont will be minor-league bound and will be able to do so without issue. Clermont won't likely be a risk next season as he has yet to break into the AHL. The Devils can wait a little longer on Wedgewood. In general, don't be surprised if the Devils look for a young goalie during this season (think another undrafted FA like Kinkaid) or next season for the pipeline.
As usual, I hope I got this all right for waiver status. It may not be the deciding point between a player staying in New Jersey or going down to Albany. It is a factor and it is something management of all teams consider with their rosters. What do you make of the players who are and are not waiver-exempt for 2014-15? Do you think Jon Merrill will lose his exemption by December? Will a forward get moved in a trade or be risked to waivers? If the latter, then who? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the players' waiver status. Thank you for reading.